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Racial disparity in youth justice

New YJB data confirms Black children are still more likely to be arrested, held in custody on remand and receive harsher penalties.

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More than half the children in custody are BAME

Last year, the Youth Justice Board (YJB) published ‘the disproportionality journey of the child’. Last Thursday (13 August 2020) they updated it to reflect the latest data and show what the JYB has done in that time to bring about change.

The YJB has produced a presentation described as ‘exploring racial disparity: how it affects children in their early years and within the youth justice system’ and a three-page infographic that summarises some of the main points.  You can download the infographic here and/or see a reproduction of its three pages below. 

The YJB has also responded to feedback and taken advantage of new data to look more closely at marginalised groups, such as Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children and looked-after children to help them identify areas for potential work in the future.

The presentation and infographic cover a wide range of areas:

  • Early years (including low income and mental health)
  • Education
  • Pre court
  • Offences
  • Court
  • The needs of sentenced children
  • Custody
  • Re-offending
  • The ethnic composition of the YOT workforce


Against the backdrop of this new data it’s clear that ethnic disproportionality remains a concerning issue. Black children are still more likely to be arrested, more likely to be held in custody on remand, receive generally harsher penalties and, shockingly, children from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds now make up more than half of all children in custody.

As this presentation shows, over-representation in the youth justice system is a complex issue. That is true, but it does not mean that we cannot change it. Complexity is not an excuse for inaction or giving up, it’s a challenge, and one that we must collectively meet.

Thanks to Julian Wan for permission to use the header image, originally published on Unsplash.

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